Danny Ferry’s exit from Hawks isn’t just about what he said

042713 ATLANTA: Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry surveys the playoff scene during the first home playoff game against Indiana on Saturday, April 27, 2013, in Atlanta. CURTIS COMPTON/ CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Danny Ferry was on what the Hawks termed a “voluntary leave of absence” this past season. (Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com)

The Hawks’ buyout of Danny Ferry’s contract was officially announced today. The news release had a strangely headline, “Atlanta Ferry and Danny Ferry part ways.” The release begins, “The Atlanta Hawks announced today that Danny Ferry has stepped down as General Manager of the team.” Cutting through the spin: He was fired.

I understand the consternation in the fan base over this issue — a local team effectively shoving a talented general manager out the door. So I thought it would be a good time to share a few thoughts on this subject:

1. It’s not just about Ferry’s words: Let’s put aside whether you believe Ferry just read the scouting reports comments on Luol Deng or actually thought them, whether you think what he did is a fireable offense or not, whether you think he’s racist or not, whether he has long passed served his punishment and should be welcomed back to the team he built or not. This is about simple business. Tony Ressler and his partners purchased the Hawks for $730 million, a deal that becomes official Wednesday. No businessman wants to make that big of a purchase and inherit a perceived mess like the Ferry situation. It has been apparent for several weeks that Ferry’s exit would be finalized before the sale of the team closed. Ressler did not want to deal with questions at his first news conference like, “What would you say to people who still believe the Hawks are harboring a racist general manager?” Because whether you think the question is fair or not, it would be asked. The truth if, you put 1,000 people in a room, 950 might say Ferry should be brought back. The other 50 would scream. And maybe picket. If you’re Ressler, you ask yourself: Can I avoid that?

2. Ferry’s exit doesn’t mean the Hawks will collapse: This is the No. 1 concern because Ferry did a remarkable job building the team over three off-seasons and he hired coach Mike Budenholzer. But the structure, philosophy and blueprint Ferry brought with him doesn’t have to go away. Budenholzer (who will get the title of team president) and assistant general manager Wes Wilcox (who will get a new title as well) will remain in Atlanta. They know the types of players that will fit into the locker room and function in this system. Consider what the system and philosophy did for the careers of Paul Millsap, DeMarre Carroll, Jeff Teague and others.

3. HOWEVER, Ferry’s exit doesn’t mean the Hawks will ascend. Hawks officials can speak all they want about how Budenholzer is prepared to be the team’s ultimate decision-maker. But the truth is, Ferry was the big picture guy, not Budenholzer and certainly not Wilcox. The latter are smart guys and hard workers but they didn’t make the final decisions on anything when Ferry was in charge. Budenholzer has to prove he can do that while also coaching the team.

4. Ferry’s exit won’t keep free agents away: Free agents sign with teams for several reasons: Money, head coach, money, city, money, friends on the roster, money. How often do you hear, “I signed here for the general manager”? That’s not meant to be a knock on Ferry. It’s just fact. It’s along the lines of a high school recruit saying, “I signed with Georgia because of Greg McGarity.” As long as a player gets his money and has a belief the organization is stable and moving in the right direction, he’ll sign.

5. Wilcox will be watched closely: Budenholzer was a great assistant coach in San Antonio who had to prove his worth as a head coach in Atlanta. Wilcox was a tireless worker as an assistant who will have to prove his worth as the GM. That said, he’s not the true GM — Budenholzer is. But you can believe the new owners will watch Wilcox closely to see how he operates behind the scenes without Ferry to lean on.

 

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95 comments
GaLatino
GaLatino

ALL of you are completely missing the point, and that includes YOU Jeff.  Danny Ferry is not a person with racist leanings or intentions, and this incident in which he read someone else's words is, at worst, a case of poor judgement in "knowing the room".  He is by all accounts a good, not great - I'll explain - GM who is largely responsible for where the Hawks are today, and should be applauded for his efforts.  You can fairly make the case that he's getting the shaft.


That said, exactly what IS his track record as a GM?  In 5 years in Cleveland, with the self-proclaimed "King" as his anchor, the best free agents he was able to attract were a 50 year old Shaq and a 75 year old Antawn Jamison.  In San Antonio, there's not a soul alive who believes he was making the truly important personell decisions.  Even here, where he proved to be a miracle worker by ridding us of Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams, and letting Josh Smith walk, his success is largely a case of "addition by subtraction".  


During his time here, even before the incident everyone's got their panties in a bunch over, there were rumors about how potential free agents just didn't feel Ferry was willing to put on the show to bring them here, which given our history of ownership was absolutely necessary to attract one.  Some of that may not be his fault, since the organization's reputation with players has been extremely poor for a long time, but the fact is Paul Millsap is his high water mark for free agency.  Simply put, he was never able to swing the best talent to Atlanta before, and he DEFINITELY won't now.


Now imagine you're a new owner coming in, determined for your investment to pay off quickly, and you are aware of all the above.  Even if this all wasn't really Ferry's fault, why keep someone who can be a liability when it comes to attracting the best talent???


Sadly, this really was just about business.  And I support the move.



escapeplan
escapeplan

You'd think that with an owner sharing an alma mater with the GM, there'd be a little defense coming for Danny Ferry.  I guess not.  That may tell you all you need to know about this new ownership group, too.

WhopperDawg
WhopperDawg

Well the new owner should be a lot more concerned in figuring out how he could keep the best GM this franchise has ever had rather than being more concerned about answering a few potentially embarrassing questions from the mentioned 5%.


Congratulations new ownership group, mistake number 1 and it could be a dozy.

Mutley
Mutley

It's just the LOSERVILLE curse. Nothing that is in any way successful can exist in the Atl.

General Concern
General Concern

Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Danny Ferry is so trivial and the sin so light 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know people blow things out of proportion.”

22 The men turned away and went toward Philips Arena but Jeff remained standing before the Lord23 Then Jeff approached him and said: “Will you keep the wicked with the righteous? 24 What if there are fifty outraged people in the city? Will you really spare the place for the sake of the nine hundred and fifty people okay with it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to keep righteous with the whacked out, treating the righteous and the whacked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

26 The Lord said, “If I find fifty outraged people in the city too busy to hate, I will condemn the whole place for their sake.”

27 Then Jeff spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the outraged is five less than fifty? Will you fail to destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”

“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will destroy it.”

29 Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”

He said, “For the sake of forty, I will do it.”

30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”

He answered, “I will do it if I find thirty there.”

31 Jeff said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”

He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will destroy it.”

32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more.What if only ten can be found there?”

He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will destroy it.”

33 When the Lord had finished speaking with Jeff, he left, and Jeff banged out a column.

khd713
khd713

To Jeff Schultz:


Over the weekend I read the article you wrote about your son and I found it profoundly moving - one of the best pieces I've ever read in this newspaper. That comes from someone whose family has endured a similar situation. I learned a lot about you, that you are a fallible but incredibly loving parent, and that you know the difference between right and wrong.


That said, how can you write about this situation as if it's just the cost of doing business? When you suggest that we "put aside" the facts of the matter, even as a hypothetical, you strongly imply that you think otherwise and believe Ferry is a racist and wasn't simply reading something written by someone else and that what he did was a fireable offense. ALL of the evidence we have seen supports Ferry, so if you know something else then you need to tell us. Isn't the journalist's job to ferret out the truth, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable? Then why are you buying the company line in this matter? 


Of course the new owner would be asked about Ferry at his first press conference, and I will tell you how he should answer the question since that concept seems to have escaped you: he should answer it with THE TRUTH. And then you should write columns that support the new owner for sticking up for what is right and fair, and you do your best to change the tiny faction of public opinion that disagrees. Instead, you seem to be endorsing the insane notion that the opinion of 50 wrong-headed people should supersede not just the opinion of the majority, but what is right. That cannot be allowed to happen in this country, and that is why we have a free press. As a journalist, you should be ashamed for allowing the new owner to get away with costing a man his livelihood and this city perhaps the best GM we've ever had, all because he wanted to avoid an uncomfortable question. It's as if you are just dismissing it with a shrug, which should be anathema to a journalist.


Well, there are lot more questions being asked by the fan base now. If the new owner gets his way it might just all flow like so much water under the bridge. Then again, if I am reading the fan base correctly and the level of disbelief and anger this situation is stirring, it might not. The question is, what are you going to do about it?

chasjons
chasjons

Great GMs are not easy to find. When you have one that could be great you hang on to him.  It is not easy for a right hand man to take over.  Ask Frank Wren about that.   We have tougher decisions this year than we did last year.  I hope that we didn't just get rid of someone who could help us win a championship.  New owners usually make quite a few mistakes in the early years (Ted Turner, Arthur Blank,  ATLANTA SPIRIT OF COURSE).  I think the new owners are well intended, but they seem to prioritize their own interests over winning.  

Big Wally
Big Wally

I'll move on, when little Mikey Gearon is gone.  We need to do whatever we can, emails, letters, protests, etc.  Gearon must go, Gearon must go, Gearon must go.

patriotdog
patriotdog

What was Gearon, Jr.s beef with Ferry anyway? Was he mad because Ferry realized his claim to fame is being a Trust Fund baby? Cannot believe the new owners gave that nimrod an ownership stake.

Big Wally
Big Wally

@patriotdog I think it came down to Ferry not keeping Josh Smith.  I know someone who has talked to Gearon a lot.  He often said Josh Smith would be the next Michael Jordan when they drafted him.  I think when Ferry let him walk, that little Mikey got upset and was bound to get Ferry anyway he could. 

patriotdog
patriotdog

Schultzie, your entire column's premise is shot to hell with the first 'thought'. You cannot "put aside whether you believe Ferry just read the scouting reports or actually thought them.". It was stated back at the start of this defamatory episode, and reaffirmed now by the investigation as explained by the minority owner, that Ferry WAS reading someone else's words, has never been found or suspected of racist feelings per the investigation and, in fact, offered the player in question a contract.

For some reason you and Bradley have ignored statements made in Ferry's defense since this all started and have repeatedly called for his ousting. I'm not saying you shouldn't have an opinion, just that your opinion, as it is given voice through the AJC that most of us don't have, shouldn't discard evidence just because you want to write a story.

Shame on you.

Jerry916
Jerry916

If the Hawks falter at the very least in the upcoming season, most of the fans will be screaming it's because of the GM.


It's going to be extremely difficult for the Hawks not to take a step backwards from last season.  They leveled off down the stretch and into the playoffs.


The East will be tougher next season, and the Hawks could very well lose some key players in Millsap and Carroll.



freezboy
freezboy

Ferry's comments were not Racist as most insist...Bigoted...absolutely...if you think I'm incorrect, look them up...hit me back...

patriotdog
patriotdog

Jeez Louise. His comments were not his. They were written by a scout. That fact was part of the initial story, and has been confirmed by the owner's investigation.

Big Wally
Big Wally

@patriotdog Your wasting your time trying to explain it.  These people have a template they are following.  They don't know how to interpret the truth.

H2O_Dawg
H2O_Dawg

I think Jeff Schultz was generally right on most of his points, but he's dead wrong on the most important one- the first one. What an embarrassment to have found that DF was fine the entire time and it's the ownership of the team (read: Gearon) that's messed up. If anything, the new owners should jettison Gearon as quickly as possibly and should have kept Ferry. Your fan base, at least the paying part, would have understood the actions and the owners would have shown more backbone and resolve by sticking to its guns and the formula for winning, rather than cowering to a group of race-baiting attention seekers who didn't even understand what had taken place. The Hawks will continue to limp around for the next couple seasons and then eventually spiral back into mediocrity with the rest of our sports teams. I predict the Hawks finish 2nd or 3rd in the East at best, then all downhill from there. Who knows, maybe the Braves are onto something and the Falcons could make the wild card.

Jerry916
Jerry916

@H2O_Dawg All of the fan base is a paying part.  If you never go to a game and only watch on TV or listen on the radio, your ears and eyes count.  That's why the tv contact is blowing up after next year.


Ratings control the cost of advertising!

California Dawg
California Dawg

I'm not sure what kind of money Marc Gasol is asking for but he'd be a great fit. We'd have to let Milsap walk in order to go after Gasol. Al would slide to the 4 which is his natural position. We resign Carroll and keep him at the three. We'd have an legit big man down low with superb passing skills who would demand a double team at times. That means more open shots for Kyle and others. I wouldn't be too upset if we kept both Milsap and Carroll but if we could only keep one let it be DeMarre.

Delbert_D
Delbert_D

@California Dawg 

Marc Gasol has a little Catalonia in him; pledging allegiance to Spain at the front door, and mixing with the leftist separatists out the back.

58Supersports
58Supersports

Jeff taking the Management side as ajc usually does.... Except Mark B.

ChuckinAlpharetta
ChuckinAlpharetta

Who give a steaming pile what a bunch of journalists ask if the fans overwhelmingly want him to stay?


Are you selling tickets to sports reporters or to fans? That seems elementary in its simplicity.

twentysixpointtwo
twentysixpointtwo

@ChuckinAlpharetta ....and to your point I'm already looking forward to Shultz article a year from now about how far the Hawks have slipped back and why couldn't someone in the Hawks brass stand up once for Ferry.

SouthGeorgiaStrong
SouthGeorgiaStrong

It doesn't matter now, what's done is done! The team he put together played exciting basketball, and put fan in the seats, if he was still in his job he would have made the moves to put the Hawks in the finals, this I will always believe. No matter what anyone else thinks.

Wayne_stuck_in_AL
Wayne_stuck_in_AL

This is Gearon-driven, no doubt about it...this is his "crash-and-burn" strategy towards the Atlanta sports fan.


Gearon simply doesn't GAF about Atlanta.

Chi Ali
Chi Ali

Just saw the comments below and and had to agree, that's why I said a self assessment is needed by all ATL recruiting agencies (Chamber of commerce etc) Atl has to be real about its makeup.  All this talk about an international city yet everywhere I go their are nothing but grady babies and local castoffs from the southeast. THe fact that this city could not support Hockey tells me all I need to know.  This city is not in that international phase, the focus needs to be on the southeast, the failure of the thrashers and the state of downtown shows that those boys in the gold dome need to do much more market research.

DrGonzo
DrGonzo

@Chi Ali We supported the Thrashers. We didn't support Gearon and the ASG, who sold the franchise out from under us with the help of Gary Bettman and the NHL, who got a $60 million payout to the league if the team moved (but no cash if the team didn't move, hence "Atlanta is not a hockey town and doesn't support hockey" became the propaganda tagline the NHL kept pushing. It was and is patently untrue.).

ChuckinAlpharetta
ChuckinAlpharetta

@DrGonzo @Chi Ali


I guess by that guy's logic Baltimore won't support football because the Colts moved - or Cleveland won't support football because the Browns moved... to Baltimore.


Sadly, fan support plays almost no part in the decision to relocate franchises - usually it's one person, or a very small number of people, with big cartoonish dollar signs in their eyes.

afx
afx

@Chi Ali  you much better expert on hate some kind of people than on hockey. despite arguable weakest GM in pro sports USA Thrashers average attendance been higher than Hawks in most of the years Thrashers existence. so better go back to analyze why Mr. Silver not good as NBA boss.. 

Big Wally
Big Wally

I guess it doesn't matter if the new GM and Budenhoser can put together a roster, sign free agents, or draft players (something neither has a history of doing).............as long as they have that ability to 'self edit' someone else's comments, that's all I need.


That would be sarcasm by the way.

pride
pride

The team should be boycotted by the fans of Atlanta so long as anyone named Gearon owns any part of the team.

Big Wally
Big Wally

@pride I have.  Haven't stepped foot in Phillips since those clowns sold the Thrashers.

WW5
WW5

bring back billy knight!!!

Dman
Dman

Look for Ferry to show up as another teams GM real fast. He proved what a great GM he is here in Atlanta and you know those big market teams are salivating over the chance to hire him soon. This is our loss and Ferry's gain financially because he will make bigger bucks in the near future. Too bad for us...

DrGonzo
DrGonzo

@Dman You watch. Jordan will bring his a$$ to Charlotte quicker than you can say 'pulled-pork.' And we'll have the Hornets winning the SE division in two years.

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

The fans will be watching closely, to see who Budenholzer brings in to help this team.

DrGonzo
DrGonzo

"Perceived mess." You mean that 'mess' that went to the conference semis and put four players on the All-Star team? That mess? Because the only problems Ferry's comments caused were with the press. Nobody else in the league, pros and front office folks, thought Ferry should be punished for this. The only people screaming about it? WERE YOU PEOPLE IN THE PRESS. YOU caused this, by helping that [expletive deleted]-face Gearon throw mud on the franchise by exposing trivial backroom discussions that could then be blown up into major issues. This is on Schultz, Bradley, and the rest of the hacks at AJC sports and nationally.

sliderule
sliderule

@DrGonzo Very well stated.  Just as much of the controversy reported today seems to be contrived by the press only for sensationalism this one also seems to be a mountain out of molehill.

TeheranHeight
TeheranHeight

@Big Wally Do you have a problem with black people? For you to have a problem with Terrence Moore. You need to read up on his background. This man is nationally known. One thing about journalism is, you put out the stories that sell not those feel good stories. You particularly remembers that story but do you remember when he talked about the Gwinnett Braves will be more attractive than the ATL Braves if they kept up the trend? I'm sure you don't because it wasn't something that would sell. 

DrGonzo
DrGonzo

@PaulinNH @DrGonzo Negative. The 'messenger' was Mike Gearon, exposing confidential corporate documents that were nobody's business outside the organization. The press then took that and used it to create a story that was much more controversial on paper than in actuality. Players and executives from around the league uniformly said Ferry wasn't a racist, and that they saw this as a minor issue. Yet the press - aided by Gearon and his ulterior motives - hammered, and of course PC took over the wheel at that point.


If it's the 'messenger' who's the one trying to start s--t, then yeah, they're gonna get 'shot.' Doesn't make my point less true.

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

@DrGonzo @PaulinNH 

If Gearon was the "messenger" why did you spend your post blaming it all on "YOU PEOPLE IN THE PRESS" - in big, bold, capitals???

Big Wally
Big Wally

another member of the political correctness Nazi's no doubt. If I criticize Terrance Moore your saying I'm a bigot or racist?  Wow.

Big Wally
Big Wally

@DrGonzo This is the same AJC that kept Terrance Moore on the payroll for years because he met their agenda.  Every other article he wrote was about race.  He wrote an article once blasting the Braves because they didn't have any true African Americans in their starting lineup (he didn't consider Andrew Jones a true African American).  That sums of the attitude of the Atlanta media and politicians.  They are more concerned about their agendas than the product on the field. Schultz, Bradley, Cunningham are all just following in those same footsteps.  There is no way any of them would ever come out and support Ferry.